Hatching the Pot

In the last column, I discussed ellipses and how drawing them involves the fluid, fairly fast movement of the hand, letting your reflexes carry out the kind of rounded shape you intend to make. Now we’ll move on to shading the pot that we previously described in simple outline, using curving lines that are like segments of the ellipse.

These are what I think of as “cat stroking” lines — curves that start gently, reach a crescendo of pressure and then fade out at the end. They enclose lines sensuously and are enormously useful in describing all kinds of bulging, rolling, bumpy subjects. In using these curved lines to shade the pot, we will not only describe the shadow but, because the lines curve around the pot, we will be accentuating its actual form. In my example of cross-hatching I show that, in order to avoid a “clotted” effect, the lines are made at different angles. I have drawn my examples in pen and ink to make the images clearer, but you might want to draw in a 2B or 4B pencil.

Now that the pot has been illuminated with a strong directional light, we can study how that light falls on the object, the angles that the shadows make and how to use lines to shade the drawing. Either using the outline drawing you did last week or, drawing the pot again, follow along with these steps to delineate the shadows on the pot.

 In the first stage of the drawing, I show that the light is coming from the right and slightly in front of the pot. This means that the basic pattern of shadow on the outside of the pot falls on the left, but the shadow on the inside of the pot is on the right.

Next, in order to show more of the complexity of the light and shadow, I begin to use cross-hatching, lines that go against the direction of my first lines, but that still consider the form of the pot. I notice where light catches on the shoulder of the pot, creating a little arc of illumination that “pushes” the shadow further to the left. I also show how the shadow arcs under the bottom of the pot, describing the way the shape rolls under towards the base. I also note how the light ground on which the pot sits, reflects light back onto the pot, creating a “core” shadow that is darker not at the back edge, where you might expect it, but slightly in from the edge. This reflected light, and the “core” shadow it creates, is a frequent phenomenon in round subjects.

In the last stage of the drawing, I use very pale lines in the light part of the pot on the right to dramatize the very lightest part of the pot on the “shoulder.” In other words, I am saving paper white for the one dramatically lit part of the pot. I finish the drawing by shading the shadow on the ground behind the pot, accentuating the flatness of the ground by using straighter parallel lines.

In order to move on to a slightly more complicated subject that still involves ellipses I have photographed a pitcher. Its pouring lip and handle add two elements that will expand your analytic and drawing skills. Either use the pitcher in the photo as a subject or find a similar object to observe in three dimensions and draw, delineating both its basic structure and the effect of light falling on it.

I have made a basic drawing of the pitcher that may help you as a guide in getting started. Note that the axis of the pouring lip and the handle are the same, in other words, they line up. Also note that in my drawing I am using several “feeling out” strokes to get to the bulging sides of the pitcher. I encourage you to do this: to internalize the feeling of roundness as you make the stroke, so as to move beyond the more neutral feeling of simply reproducing the curve.

Giorgio Morandi

This etching is by Giorgio Morandi, one of my favorite artists. As you can see, his style of drawing rounded shapes is not consistent with my demonstration. This dichotomy illustrates an issue pertinent to every example I use from the history of fine art, which is that the examples I give will expand the ideas of the lesson, rather than simply reinforcing the lesson.

For instance, I have demonstrated how to use curved lines in making the drawing of the pot because those kinds of lines help you to feel out the pot’s roundness and because the subtlety of making those lines is a way for you to engage the sensuousness of your reflexes. And now I show you a Morandi still life where he uses straight lines to describe round forms. How confusing! The Morandi etching depends for much of its contemplative beauty on the game the artist plays between the implied depth in which the objects exist and the texture of the lines that bring the drawing back to the surface.

When you are learning to draw, it is useful to understand the most obvious methods of achieving form and proportion, but when your idea of what you want to do in your drawing is strong enough, any line, texture or implement can achieve your vision.

James McMullan, New York Times

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Full article and photos: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/30/hatching-the-pot/